Page 234 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

Basic HTML Version

Y I D D I S H P R O S E I N A M E R I C A *
B
y
S
hlomo
B
ick el
T
iif . p r i n c i p a l t h e m e s o f
Yiddish belles-lettres in America are:
1.
recollections of Jewish life in the Old Country;
2.
ex-
plorations of the immediate and distant past; and 3. Jewish
transplantation and integration in America.
Common to all three themes is a viewing of Jewish reality
from a “Transatlantic Position." The phrase “Transatlantic Posi-
tion” was coined by the critic B. Rivkin, who first used it in
Zamelbicher,
an annual edited in New York in 1936 by Joseph
Opatoshu and H. Leivick, and later reprinted in Rivkin’s book,
Basic Tendencies of American Yiddish L iterature.
However, I
used this concept, though not the expression, a year before Rivkin
in an essay on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of
Peretz’s death. I pointed out that the upsurge of interest in
Peretz in America derived from a deficit of an indigenous Jew-
ish tradition there, and also from the fact that the Yiddish writer,
profiting from his geographic and psychic distance, was not
required to exchange the Torah scroll for the samovar, or the
tragic holiday approach to Jewish history for the melodramatic
Jewish reality.
The critics' generalization of a “Transatlantic Position” is still
valid today, if taken in the sense used by Rivkin in New York
and by me in distant Bucharest. The concept needs merely to
be broadened and deepened. Above all, it must be corrected to
encompass mutuality. The American writer's view of Jewish life
in the Old Country was modified not only by his experiences in
his
neru home;
his pre-American experiences abroad also influ-
enced his interpretation of developing Jewish life in the United
States. 111 other words, the Yiddish writer, whose years were
divided between Eastern Europe and America, had two homes
to interpret creatively and two pairs of eyes with which to look
upon them.
This dual vision aided most writers, notwithstanding their
diverse temperaments. It helped romanticists, realists, satirists.
• Translated by Sol Liptzin.
214